trade tales | Jan 24, 2020 |
How do you vet new vendors?

With a world of options at your fingertips, how do you find reliable product sources? We asked eight designers—Barclay Butera, Wendy Yates, Mary Patton, Sara Malek Barney, Stefani Stein, Yael Weiss, Jeanna George and Phyllis Taylor—how they vet new vendors.

Barclay Butera
Barclay ButeraCourtesy of Barclay Butera

Showtime
“I have three showrooms to fill and countless design projects going on at one time, so I am always on the lookout for great new collections. My buying team attends High Point Market and I also source in Paris at the shows, which are the best places to discover fabulous new designs. I love finding new vendors and we will order for our showrooms if we like what we see. Once the first order comes in, if the quality is excellent and they deliver in a timely fashion, I’m a fan! If the product arrives sporadically and is not up to our expectations, we just never order again. I never use Yelp—who has the time?” —Barclay Butera, Newport Beach, California and Park City, Utah

Wendy Yates
Wendy YatesCourtesy of Wendy Yates

Sustainable relationship
“We typically find our vendors at trade shows and markets. Although Yelp reviews can be informative, we like to form our own conclusions through our own experiences. What’s most important to us is customer service, accessible product information and full disclosure on pricing with shipping options and payment methods. Our focus is on sustainable design and wellness, so we look for vendors that support sustainable, environment-friendly practices while also embodying ethical, transparent business relations.” —Wendy Yates, Abigail-Elise Design Studio, Frisco, CO

Mary Patton
Mary PattonCourtesy of Mary Patton

Self-testing
“I typically test a new vendor on a project at my personal home or a flip project I’m working on as a trial. If it is a referral from a trusted colleague, I will start them on a small project and go from there.” —Mary Patton, Mary Patton Design, Houston

Sara Malek Barney
Sara Malek BarneyCourtesy of Sara Malek Barney

Social influence
“Instagram has been very powerful for us in unearthing new, interesting vendors. I have found craftsmen from around the world through social media—it’s been fantastic! In regards to the vetting process, I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type of gal. I think if their work visually looks great, then I give them a shot. If they let me down, then I move on, and if they impress me then we are golden.” —Sara Malek Barney, Bandd Design, Austin, TX

Stefani Stein
Stefani SteinCourtesy of Stefani Stein

Talk of the town
“Word of mouth is essential to vetting new vendors. My first step is always asking my peers and preferred showrooms for recommendations. From there, a phone call and workroom visit are next in my process. When there are multiple vendors that offer the same service, my preferences for repeat business have to do with quality, consistency and, of course, communication. Once I have worked with a new vendor a few times, I can usually tell if they are going to become a mainstay.” —Stefani Stein, Stefani Stein Inc., Los Angeles

Yael Weiss
Yael WeissCourtesy of Yael Weiss

Get it in writing
“I’ve learned from experience to take this matter seriously. I’ve always preferred working with new vendors who have been recommended by colleagues; there’s no better endorsement than a high-quality finished product and a designer who can vouch for the integrity of the vendor. If a client decides to hire someone that I haven’t vetted, I make sure that I have their decision to go rogue in writing. That way there is no finger-pointing if something goes awry!” —Yael Weiss, Yeal Weiss Interiors, New York

Jeanna George
Jeanna GeorgeCourtesy of Jeanna George

Time after time
“I don’t waste my time on reviews, because they can be doctored. I once had a vendor that wasn’t reliable ask me for a good review to help them to get their ratings up and bring them to the top of the Google search. Our design community is small and it is easy to ask other designers about their experiences with a new vendor. One of the first questions I ask is about how often items from that company get backordered. I will also contact the vendor to connect with their regional representative, as it’s important to see how available they are, if they contact you in a timely manner, and their level of communication. We are all working with project deadlines, and any vendor that helps me to save time has my business, always.” —Jeanna George, Habachy Designs + Atelier, Atlanta

Phyllis Taylor
Phyllis TaylorCourtesy of Phyllis Taylor

Talk it out
“Since service is just as important as the product, I like to ask my local fellow designers about their experience with the vendor as well as the brand. A vendor may have a great product, but if there is little service, especially in our industry, where anything that can go wrong often does, you could have a real disaster. Talking with designers you know and trust gives me the confidence I need to spend our clients’ money responsibly.” —Phyllis Taylor, Taylor & Taylor, Miami

Homepage photo: A project by Barclay Butera | Courtesy of Barclay Butera

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